Oh Dear, Another
The chief surprise in the latest unnecessary WikiLeaks business – the one that had American ambassador Scott Marciel turning out in his best batik last week for a dressing-down from Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa – is the continued belief among the credulous (in the media in large numbers these days apparently) that officials sent to legations overseas should not write home about what they see and hear.
One supposes that Indonesian diplomats in foreign capitals take soundings, find out who is tickling which till among the flock they are sent to watch over, report peccadilloes, speculate on political alliances and private motives, all sorts of things. Well, one supposes. If they aren’t, they’re not doing their jobs.
That President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has gone to water on corruption (and much else) is hardly news. It’s in the papers every day. That his wife may have used political connections in private business is an issue with less of a public profile, granted, but it would be frankly astonishing if in Indonesia like anywhere else that influence wasn’t the best scrip in the portfolio. The situation is not much different in fully formed democracies with corporate sectors and judicial systems that are functionally as well as formally separate from the political process.
These are other things that the credulous cannot comprehend: that politics are like that; that life is like that. The chief problem with politics is that it stinks – just consult Pericles, not to mention Cato, for the true historical perspective on that.
The problem with the newly empowered “social media” and with mainstream journalists trying to get aboard that particular train to nowhere is that they have been gulled by snake-oil salesmen such as Julian Assange who sell them elixirs for which there is no actual need.
The Diary’s morning walks are back in business. The Distaff has spoken. And anyway, it’s a good plan. So last weekend, off we trudged, around the green, overgrown and rain-swept ridges of Banjar Bakung Sari, Ungasan. The Distaff carried her sturdy (and long) stick, the better to ward off approaching dogs. The Diary was armed with four stout stones, the ordnance that standing orders at The Cage require for morning area patrols. Only two were expended.
We feel safe – well not safe, exactly, but less than panicked – now that we have had, at some personal expense, the three-shot pre-exposure anti-rabies vaccine. The antibodies thus created, we are assured, provide 100 percent protection as long as upon being bitten by a suspect animal you get the post-exposure vaccine course in full as well.
If pre-vaccinated, you are spared the expense and bother of a hurried trip overseas to get the immunoglobulin without which, previously unvaccinated, you must apparently risk dying in a disgusting, foam-filled, maddened way. Since immunoglobulin is horrendously expensive and administered on a volume per body weight basis, it costs you a packet to keep your brain intact and in working order, breath in your body, and life as more than just a very uncertain prospect.
Thus armed, we set off. The tramp around the sodden ridges was for the most part uneventful, except for one lovely little incident that really should be recorded. Near our turnaround point, four – later five – dogs were assembled, risking life and limb as they do hereabouts by relaxing mid-road and affecting astonishing sang-froid in the face of oncoming traffic. They barked fiercely, no doubt trying to persuade us that they were neither pets nor cravens. We advised them to shut up. They did.
On our return, they had set up again in the middle of the road and – perhaps chastened by their profound failure first time around – looked ready to arm their fangs and advance towards us in a fierce skirmish line.
The Diary raised both arms, rather in the manner of some maestro about to commence the strings on a particularly tiresome part of Wieniawski’s difficult second violin concerto. He signalled a quadruple movement, allegretto vivace, to his left. The dogs took four steps to their right. He repeated the movement. They took another four steps – into the bush at the side of the road.
Problem solved. The best bit was that, when we had passed, they all trotted out into the road again and looked our way; plainly they were astonished – by us but mostly at themselves.
The Hindus of Bali set their dead, in ashes, afloat upon the sea, on an auspicious date often long after the event. It is a lovely custom. It is not as strange as some might suppose. Among many others, the Norsemen who peopled so much of post-Roman Britannia, the northern portion of which later became Scotland, set theirs adrift in boats, with flames to take them to Valhalla.
The Diary’s heritage is Scots, of the Lowland variety (the true Sassenach and proud of it). And despite a lifetime spent elsewhere, Scotland remains ingrained in the soul. To this day the salty smell of North Sea kelp and sea-wrack, half a century remembered, is as strong as ever. You just have to dream to go home.
So later this year we’re looking forward to a little family ceremony that will be held on a chill, windswept, pebbly beach, where the ashes of two of our number – no one is ever no longer present – will finally be offered to the breeze and the waves to find whatever home awaits them. It was – it is – a favourite spot.
The Diary chiefly remembers it as one among a number of special places in which summer holidays were enjoyed and for its little burn (stream) wherein, if one were lucky, a trout could be found to tickle and be taken home for supper. Dad showed us how to do it, being himself an absent son of the land.
It is remembered too for the hectare of raspberries on the laird’s estate just upstream. Rich pickings could be obtained there at the cost only of Mum’s disapproval (this was generally best avoided since she had driven ambulances in the London Blitz) for having smeared indelible berry-juice upon one’s mouth and hands and, unless very careful, upon one’s clothes as well. We were fortunate with those raspberries: our cousin was the Baillie’s boy.
We shall look for the wild garlic too, that grows in sheltered little spots and scents the air in season and which Dad, a Depression-era tenant farmer’s son, carried with him in his own dreams across the world and through an honourable and in its own way astonishing military career.
A little while ago – well, six weeks ago actually – The Bali Times told the president of the Bali Peace Park Association, Nick Way, that it would like to record at the beginning of each month progress on the association’s long publicised objective of erecting a peace park/memorial garden on the former Sari Club site in Legian by October 2011.
We thought readers should know how much money the association had raised to date, what land had been purchased and when construction would start.
Last Sunday evening we got a response from faraway Perth. And we’d like to share it with you. It said: “Thank you for your inquiry. At this point there is nothing the Bali Peace Park Association wishes to disclose to the media.”
So here’s our first update on the project:
Funds raised: Won’t say.
Land purchased: Won’t say.
Construction start: Won’t say.
We say: It all looks very iffy to us.
Bali’s Pink Ribbon Walk this year is in October, not May as has been the case before, bringing it into line with Breast Cancer Awareness Month around the world. Organisers Gaye Warren and Amanda O’Connor have even bigger plans for the 2011 event, the third.
They’re backed by the Nusa Dua hotels association – Himpunan Humas Perhotelan Bali or HHPB – and the Bali Tourism Development Corporation, whose president director I Made Mandra is a big supporter.
Bali Pink Ribbon Walk, under the auspices of the Bali International Women’s Association, raises funds for breast cancer awareness among Balinese women and to help provide breast screening and other assistance. Its website is worth keeping an eye on: www.balipinkribbon.com.
So make a note in your diaries: Saturday, October 22. We hear there are plans for a gala evening the night before which should help Jakarta and other participants from far away make a weekend of it.
Hector's Blog appears, as The Diary, in the weekly print edition of The Bali Times, out Fridays. www.thebalitimes.com, Print editions are available worldwide through NewspaperDirect.